Sources

Super League Lessons, From Berlusconi To A Humble AC Milan Fan

Using pure economic power to reorder the world of soccer was clearly a bad idea, though not necessarily a new idea. Some reflections from a conflicted fan of one particular Italian super squad.

An AC Milan fan outside the iconic San Siro stadium in March 2020
An AC Milan fan outside the iconic San Siro stadium in March 2020
Alessio Perrone

MILAN — I'm too young to have witnessed the day my beloved football club — AC Milan — was first bought by a billionaire. And what a billionaire …

Believe it or not, despite their links to the Milan fashion industry and being the personal property for more than 30 years of media-tycoon-turned-troublesome-politician Silvio Berlusconi, the club has working-class roots. In the early days of the sport, the team's supporters were derided as casciavit, the Milanese dialect for "screwdriver," a mocking jab of the humble jobs many had.

When Berlusconi bought the foundering club in 1986, he was ready to pour his millions into the venture. He plundered the best players from the more successful Dutch clubs; flooded the club's coffers with cash; and awarded managers and players seemingly outrageous salaries. Some complained that Berlusconi ruined football, others complained he ruined Italy. I was more apt to agree with the latter, too busy basking in the successive Champions League trophies of my favorite team to worry about moralistic arguments in the field of football.

It was only the last step in a 30-year transformation that big money was inflicting on the beautiful game.

By the time Berlusconi sold the club in 2017, AC Milan was the husk of what he had created. Others richer than him bought other clubs — Chelsea ended up in the hands of Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch and personal friend of Vladimir Putin; Sheikh Mansour of the United Arab Emirates acquired Manchester City; Paris Saint-Germain was bought with Qatari cash.

Berlusconi posing with AC Milan jersy in Saronno , Italy, in May 2015 — Photo: Matteo Bazzi/ANSA/ZUMA

Berlusconi could no longer keep up. Towards the end of his tenure, he sought to cut salaries and costs. He didn't succeed and left a failing, languishing, heavily indebted club that hemorrhaged money.

Last week, as plans quickly imploded to create a soccer "Super League", which would have included my squad, plenty of column inches were filled with warnings about the wider significance of the event. Some noted how formerly working-class clubs had opened the gates to uncontrollable, unethical capital — like AC Milan, now owned by the vulture hedge fund Elliott Management, whose heroic deeds include bullying the Argentinian government after it defaulted on its public debt.

Few seemed to have learned the other lessons of the Berlusconi-AC Milan parable.

Others noted that it was only the last step in a 30-year transformation that big money was inflicting on the beautiful game. Others still highlighted how the Super League was only a move for clubs to justify their squandering funds on players: Owners got greedy, chasing an even bigger slice of the TV contracts and advertising pies for themselves.

Few seemed to have learned the other lessons of the Berlusconi-AC Milan parable. In the years before selling, he often complained about how unfair the game was, and called for salary caps and more attention to balance sheets. Money, as even he realized too late, can't solve life's every problem.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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